GIS Degree program on Master-level

The UNIGIS Master of Science (MSc) is a postgraduate study program in distance-learning format. It establishes a solid foundation with the key concepts and methods in Geographic Information Systems and Science, and provides the competences for solving complex real-world problems. Students develop their individual areas of expertise in the Electives as well as the Master Thesis research, according to their personal needs and interests. UNIGIS MSc students are typically working GI-professionals, who lead – or aim to lead – interdisciplinary teams.

The study is compliant with the level 7 (Master) of the European Qualifications Framework.

Target group

Persons who want to acquire knowlege on the wide range of the conceptual, technical and methodological contexts in the field of geoinformatics. Graduates are qualified as project, team or department leaders.


Academic Degree Master of Science (Geographic Information Science & Systems) – MSc

Starting dates *

Twice a year (March, 1 and October, 1)

Duration *

2 years, graduation possible up to 3 years in total. Average weekly workload 12-15 hrs (depending on prior knowledge)

Tuition fee *

Study program’s tuition fee amounts to € 9,800.- payable in a single installment or 2 equal annual installments of – € 5,200.-

* applies to the Salzburg Global Campus; may differ if delivered through a partner site, see Study Locations

Study Content

The UNIGIS MSc study program is based on a modular structure, including

  • 9 core modules (each one 6 ECTS),
  • Elective subjects “Applied Geoinformatics” (24 ECTS),
  • the study phase “Learning Practice and Scientific Work”, including 3 online workshops (together 12 ECTS), and
  • the Master Thesis (30 ECTS).

In total, the program amounts to 120 ECTS credits.

The program is designed to be completed in two years, however it can be extended for one additional year without additional fee.

Curriculum overview

This introductory module has a special position as a first study component of the curriculum. It provides orientation and sets the frame for working with the subsequent modules. Specifically, it supports the development of a personal style working with the distance-learning materials. In addition to these objectives regarding the study format, the following domain-related content is offered:

  • Terminology and functional characteristics of geographical information systems.
  • Typical applications of geographical information processing.
  • Current trends in Geoinformatics.
  • Overview of secondary information resources for GIS in the sense of lifelong learning.
  • Practical training to use professional GIS software.
  • Competent use of coordinate systems and projections in the practical work of GIS.

This module provides a profound overview of common data structures and models of geographic information systems. It explores how the real world around us can be mapped in all its complexity clearly with comprehensible data models and structures. Specific module contents include:

  • Modelling spatial information.
  • Spatial models – data models – data structures.
  • Vector model.
  • Raster models (grid).
  • Representation of surfaces.
  • Multidimensional spatial data models.
  • Object-oriented data models.
  • Data modelling with UML.
  • Introduction to mark-up languages (XML, GML).

The third module applies to the aspects of the ‘population’ of spatial data structures with real-world information. It gives an overview of the diversity of primary and secondary acquisition methods. It thereby creates insight in the genesis and the related suitability for use of spatial data for specific use cases. A substantial part of the access record and listing of important digital resources as well as the development of geographic information by standards-compliant documentation. It will also focus on the management of GI projects. Specific module contents include:

  • Identification of required data bases from the application and user perspective.
  • National and global spatial data sources, open government data, spatial data infrastructures, data catalogues, INSPIRE.
  • Primary collection methods: surveying, photogrammetry, laser scanning, GPS, remote sensing.
  • Secondary acquisition methods: scanning, digitizing, vectorising.
  • Raster to vector conversion, conversion strategies – Indirect position data. geocoding.
  • Data transfer: Norms and standards, sources of spatial data, format transformations.
  • Metadata, metadata standards.
  • Data quality and cost.
  • Legal issues, copyright, and open licenses.

In this module, the theoretical foundations of conventional database systems are introduced. On this basis, the knowledge is transferred to spatial data management and geo-database systems. Specific module content includes:

  • Architecture of database management systems.
  • Relational data modelling.
  • Normalisation.
  • Solid basics of the SQL query language as a universal language for data definition, data control and data management.
  • Glossary of terms relating to geographic data base systems.
  • Spatial models in DBMS.
  • Spatial indexing.

Spatial analysis methods are a central feature of all geographic information systems. This core area of Geoinformatics aims at a transfer of domain issues towards an adequate use of analytical methods and tools of the Geoinformatics, by adequate problem structuring and conceptualisation. This module introduces the fundamental methods and techniques of geographical analysis. Specific module contents include:

  • Horizontal techniques (neighbourhood analysis, distance functions, filter, interpolation, diffusion).
  • Vertical multi-thematic integration (intersection, assessment, multi-criteria method).
  • Grid analysis and map Algebra: local, focal and zonal operators.
  • Cost surfaces.
  • Terrain analysis (slope, exposure, exposure, visibility).
  • Multivariate classification and regionalisation.
  • Understanding of the formation of dynamic models and simulation.
  • Route optimisation and allocation in networks.

Knowledge on the visual communication of spatial issues is essential, because virtually every GI professional actively designs maps. This module aims at professionals from different domains to take advantage of cartographic data processing for their respective tasks. Specific module content relate to conventional as well as digital publication forms (Web mapping, mobile mapping), including:

  • Cartographic application fields and paradigms.
  • Cartographic design process.
  • Generalisation and classification.
  • Perception of forms and Visual Variables.
  • Colour models and colour use (including consideration of colour visual deficiency).
  • Development of map symbols and interaction.
  • Map annotation and text.
  • Thematic maps, diagrams and diagram maps.
  • Map design and layout.
  • Reproduction and digital output formats.
  • 2. 5D / 3D visualisation.
  • Web mapping technologies and APIs.
  • Dynamic visualisation.

Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) consists of technology, standards, guidelines and legal aspects, and human resources. This module introduces the key standards specified by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and shows the role of these standards for achieving interoperability in the context of Spatial Data Infrastructures. Specific module content includes:

  • Specific interoperability issues.
  • Overview of standards, OpenGIS and distributed architectures.
  • Concepts, models and interfaces related to OpenGIS (e.g.: XML, geography markup language (GML), Web Map Service (WMS), Web Feature Service (WFS), metadata and catalogue services).
  • Design of strategic geographical information projects – Spatial Data Infrastructures.
  • Metadata and data catalogues.

This module reviews and reinforces fundamental concepts and techniques of spatial statistics. On this basis, the principle of Spatial autocorrelation as a basis for understanding the specifics of spatial statistics will be presented and the main methods of spatial statistics discussed. Specific module content includes:

  • Comparison between non-spatial and spatial statistics.
  • Specifications and terms of spatial statistics, in particular Spatial autocorrelation and spatial variability.
  • Point pattern analysis.
  • Geographically weighted regression.
  • Exploratory spatial data analysis.
  • Deterministic interpolation.
  • Probabilistic interpolation (kriging, spatial statistics).
  • Validation of interpolation results.

The success of geographic information systems in practice is connected to projects with the aim to introduce, extend, or apply GI solutions in an institution. A profound knowledge in the area of project management and organisation thus is an increasingly important competence of GI experts. This module describes the principles and methods of modern project management. Specific module contents include:

  • Project definition and organisation.
  • Project planning (objectives, schedules, project phases, organisational structures).
  • Project framework (logical framework approach).
  • Project controlling.
  • Quality and innovation management.
  • GIS in organisations (planning, procurement, operation) with conventional and spatial SQL front end.

Elective Subjects under the title “Applied Geoinformatics” advance and/or complement skills and knowledge acquired at UNIGIS core modules in specialised topics. A total of 24 ECTS are to be completed in the “Electives Subjects”.

UNIGIS offers a variety of optional modules that cover additional subjects relevant for this course. In addition, students can choose to attend summer schools, take MOOCs, or get credit for scientific achievements.

A subset of at least 12 ECTS within the Elective Subjects can be highlighted as individual specialisation, if their contents are coherent.

> Specialisation: Application Development and Specialisation: GIS for the Environment

This module refers to study phases which contribute to students’ personal and professional development and enhance communication. It extends over the entire duration of the study and comprises of the following components:

  • active participation in the online workshops
  • successful completion of the module “Academic Work”
  • scientific presentation of Master Thesis

In the Master Thesis a student shows the ability to do independent research in a selected topic in the field of “Geographical Information Science & Systems”. As such it is a “business card” for career development. Students are required to meet the principles of scientific work in terms of formal presentation, methodological approach and its content according to current scientific standards.
The definition of a thesis topic – thesis proposal – typically takes place in the middle of the study program. The online master thesis workshop focuses on the in-depth discussion of the thesis topic with the UNIGIS Team. Additional thesis supervision through an external expert in the respective field is recommended.

> Past Master Theses

Further details you can find in the Curriculum for the degree study program“Geographical Information Science & Systems (UNIGIS MSc)”.

Next start of MSc: October, 01 2020
> Apply now

For further starts of the UNIGIS Salzburg MSc program delivered through a partner site, see Study Locations.